Needing at least 80 percent of a faculty’s support for Obama’s Race to the Top Initiative, in order for an Horry County school to receive money from a $2.5 million federal grant, the district sent an e-mail to each school about 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 12, which included a 2 ½ minute video pitch from Superintendent Cynthia Elsberry urging support, faculty signature sheets, indicating support and non-support, a form to provide the number of its professional staff members and the number and percentage of those supporting the initiative, and gave a deadline of the end of the day to supply this material
This hurried effort clearly demonstrates that money and district desires are more important to Elsberry than the treatment of teachers as professional educators, was a violation of district policy, and is more evidence that our school district needs to return to traditional governance.
Deadlines can creep up on all of us, but if the district needed to involve teachers in the decision to receive a grant, time should have been allowed for ample exploration, discussion and debate, before teachers were asked for their opinions on this important matter, weeks, if not months, of serious consideration. Teachers lead very busy lives, and many have not kept up with the intricacies of the Race to the Top Initiative and its highly politicized and controversial components. It would be better not to pursue the grant than to treat teachers as an afterthought or urge them to support something without their thoughtful study.
The district clearly violated its own policy, “Information Gathering by Administrators,” (pp. 222-223, District Policy Manual) which was enacted in 1998 as a result of a grievance I brought concerning improper balloting procedures used for year-round schooling and block scheduling. Enacted under traditional governance, it was removed in 2001 by Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait, after we switched to policy governance. Following my objection to its removal, Postlewait reinstated it in 2002.
In gathering information from teachers on highly sensitive issues, the district is supposed to guarantee complete anonymity and announce plans for tabulation of the data and the reporting of results. This did not happen Thursday.
This grant application should have gone through committee development and review, perhaps a curriculum or operations committee, on which teachers could have been represented, before final approval by the board.
Either Dr. Elsberry needs to declare the results of Thursday’s district-wide efforts invalid, or the Horry County Board of Education needs to do so through its own operational policy. Both the superintendent and the board have the responsibility to correct this colossal error.
The writer lives in Surfside Beach.